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Outdated HR systems in some HR Departments work against creating fair employment opportunities for youth

By , Former Special Advisor to the Minister in the Presidency (The Presidency)
08 Jun 2023
Lumko Mtimde.
Lumko Mtimde.

Youth unemployment in rural areas, townships and peri-urban areas is alarmingly too high, due to the ailing economy, skills mismatch, low skills level / limited skills set, in addition to Covid-19 pandemic, loadshedding, etc. This is worsened by some old-fashioned and obsolete recruitment practices and processes for available opportunities. Denial by some employers to transition from conventional manual and analogue system to digital has stood in a way for some job seekers, and against the battle of ending unemployment. Let us be innovative and take advantage of digitization (transition from conventional analogue systems to digital) and create completely new business concepts and processes.

The developments in technology have provided so much enhancement in business processes efficiencies. Sadly, some human resources processes are so outdated and as a result they work against the emancipation of humanity, particularly the poor and working class. Recruitment processes by some companies, embarrassingly even some government departments, lives much to be desired. Their adverts in newspapers will boldly, without even a sense of reflection, state "No emailed applications will be accepted." This, in 2023, reflects a poorly conceived understanding of how unemployment is a cancer that erodes human dignity. It leaves one with an idea that a cut and paste exercise from 1912 adverts is much preferred than making means to save time and efforts of those that are trying to gain a sit in the employment table.

Interestingly enough, upon enquiring from the few “culprit” HR departments using their adverts, they argue that some applicants / candidates, do not have access to internet in order to email their applications. As much as one is not advocating for draconian measures to be considered in this regard, however this argument is so disconnected to the socioeconomic realities in the grassroots, and it is so outdated.

Job seekers are usually and mostly unemployed. The logistics arrangement involved in hand delivering applications are too costly, after paying for printing and packaging such in an envelope. These costs are far exceed searching for a nearby internet cafe or Post Office and emailing the application. Even a consideration to expensive data costs, still does not compare to costs of printing, envelope, stamps and transport to deliver an application.

A game changer in this debacle, is for everyone to be appreciative of the fact that, new technologies enable interactive application processes, wherein applicants register profile, login, apply and attach all requisite documents. This will make the process more affordable and accessible to all or many. In the same breadth, it is also encouraging to see the spirit of innovation and revolutionary at play for some employers, Ekurhuleni Municipality, Ethekwini Municipality, Gauteng Online, etc.

It is so saddening to see employers like some national government departments dragging their feet in creating a conducive recruitment space that is so cost effective and accessible to many job seekers. No amount of explanation satisfies an answer to this question in 2023. Lack of digital and integrated recruitment processes make verifications and security clearance challenging, which also lengthens the recruitment period.

The former UJ Vice Chancellor Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, quoting McKinsey (2016) said, “By digitizing processes and making organizational changes, governments can enhance services, save money, and improve citizens’ quality of life.” Digitizing government remains a challenge due to lack of digital awareness despite the recommendations in the Presidential Commission 04 Industrial Revolution Report (PC4IR) published by the Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies, October 2020. Identifying some of the contributing root cause, the Director General of Public Service and Administration Department, Ms Yoliswa Makhasi addressing the Future of Work (FOW) Ambassadors Programme (July 2022) said the challenges facing the public service is a workforce with limited ICT expertise. She continued, “If you want to run a digitisation programme in the public service, surely you need more numbers of not just young people or employees in the ICT departments, but young people or people who are open to the idea of using technology.”

I have spent time in assisting unemployed new graduates in fulfilling this cumbersome and outdated process to a point where, one witnessed that they have lost hope and interest in participating in this emotionally invested and very costly applying process. They don’t even trust the process. It is equally disturbing to mention that the applicants are always met with no acknowledgement of their efforts, whereas a digitalized application process always produce an automated response, acknowledging applications, which is an assurance that the application has been received and it is given the attention it deserves.

This practice is backward and regarded as an anti-thesis to efforts by many to assist the youth in gaining access to the job market. I challenge Accounting Officers, HR Directors, Accounting Authorities, even Executive Authorities and those interested in saving company costs / public expenses, to look at their mirrors, charge and sentence themselves for contributing to frustrated, disgruntled, despondent unemployed youth. They must urgently develop an Action Plan to digitally transform their business processes and in particular human resources processes.

For the employers in the public space, Parliament, respective Legislatures and Councils must call on those responsible to immediately stop this draconian antiquated archaic requirement to hand-deliver applications. At least, for flexibility, a compromise should be to accept both emailed and hand-delivered applications. Our youth are tired of unreasonable requirements for them to get to the job market, therefore we fail to attract talent. If it is not this, it is experience, expected from a graduate, no maan, no. Let us design processes enabling young talent and graduates to access careers, create and reskill our staff to accelerate digital thinking and capabilities, so as to propose inclusive opportunities and responsive policies.

The PC4IR report prioritise digital transformation, it will yield positive results to all, business, government and society. Digitalize business processes, make digital information work for you. E-recruitment solutions helps you attract even highly skilled candidates, who will add more value to your business and align your recruitment to your skills plan. Lets make it easy for young people to access jobs or at least to be considered.

Lumko Mtimde is writing in his personal capacity. He is a former Special Advisor to the Minister in the Presidency (The Presidency). Award-winning, vast experienced and long serving public service executive and former CEO of public entities. 

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